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Car seat safety doesn’t completely fit with what I want this blog to be. However, it is something that I care about a lot and there is evidence that backs up the “rules.” Do I sometimes internally question the rules? Absolutely. I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t questioning everything but I will still follow the best evidence and recommend it until I find otherwise.
I’m a research junkie so I have known a lot about different car seats and the why and how of them for a while. I took the Safe Kids Worldwide class this past spring and became a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician so that maybe friends and family would take me seriously when I talked about car seat safety and so that I could help people keep their kids safer. The class was mostly full of law enforcement officers and employees of various community organizations that had to take the class for their jobs. I was the only one there just because I wanted to be and probably the only one that paid for the class out of their own pocket. Other than the instructors, I was probably the only one that went into the class with a huge knowledge of safety seats already. Not that I didn’t learn anything. I definitely did.
What makes my research and knowledge unique is that I also know about the environmental and health safety in addition to the physical safety aspect of child safety seats. Car seats have to pass federal flammability standards and to pass, most seats have flame retardant chemicals in them. These standards came about when more people were smoking in vehicles with kids. I know that still happens but I don’t think that all kids need to be subjected to these toxins because some people choose to make the unhealthy and dangerous decision to smoke in the car. For now, I just am keeping an eye on the seats that have “less harmful” flame retardant chemicals. The only seat to date that contains none is the UPPAbaby Mesa in Henry. It has a wool cover which is naturally flame retardant. In a Q&A session a couple of days ago, I asked if they had any plans for a convertible seat that is flame retardant free and these are the responses that I got: “Hi Ayla! We don’t have any news on a convertible right now. Keep an eye out on our social channels for product news on Oct 17th! – PB” and “Fingers crossed! – DB.” I’m just speculating but that sounds to me like they have one coming. (Update: They didn’t announce one on Oct. 17th.)
For quite a while, it has been advertised that rear facing is 5 times safer than forward facing in a car. When you look at crash dynamics, statistics and understand physics, it makes sense that it is safer. Recently, a study that concluded that it is 5 times safer has come under question for not being accurate. From the various things that I have read so far, it seems as if rear facing is safer than forward facing but we need better testing and we don’t know how much safer it is. How much safer likely varies based on the age of the child and how developed their spine is. One way that we can make better evidence based decisions is to have better evidence with more accurate testing. Currently, crash testing is done on a bench seat with no seats in front of the bench. Last I checked, all cars have front seats. Maybe that will change if/when self driving cars become a reality but that is a topic for another time. In a crash, there are hundreds and even thousands of pounds of force on things, like seatbelts, in a car. They stretch and move and padding compresses which means that car seats, heads and body parts could move enough to hit the seat in front. Until we have an accurate crash test, it is impossible to know exactly how much safer rear facing is.
I care about safety, I care about kids and I care about evidence. I want to keep my child as safe as I can as we navigate this crazy world and these crazy roads. While I do the best that I can to stay up on the evidence, I cannot control everything and I try to not live fearfully. God does not want us to live in fear, but I need constant reminding of that. Praying before getting in the car is what many people do and I could be way, way better about doing that as well.